Behind the fabric and runway lights lays an industry steeped in history and culture. The truth of the fashion industry is far removed from the generalized misapprehension that it is a shallow, pointless endeavor. When referencing the past we frequently draw upon fashion to contextualize the social happenings of a particular moment in time. We understand era’s gone by through fashion references – the rise of free love and anti-establishment through flared jeans and daisy chains, the prohibition with an appliqued flapper dress, the post-war with the rising of hem lines and Dior’s ‘new shape’. The way we visualize history undeniably includes costume – this has always been the case.
What clothes we choose speak of who we are, the wares we favour at any particular moment provide important information and complex meaning. How can fashion as an industry, hobby or art form be casually tossed aside as worthless when within it lays a rich tapestry woven with stories, characters, social change and history? Far beyond the glossy covers and celebrity cauldron are the artists, the makers, the creators, the commentators – a talented bunch who seek to find an outlet through self-expression, design and the character play of ‘dressing up’.
All industries have their Karls and Kanyes – the left of center genius/clown/showpony figure heads described differently depending who you talk to. These few often draw criticism, and sometimes praise, for their exaggerated display of creativity, quirk, and bold ‘look at me’ antics. Perhaps this yelling causes some ears to hurt and certain eyes to narrow, further widening the gap between the fashion industry and societal respect but drama has been forever tied to fashion; the marriage of style and theatrics is old as time – seen in tribal ceremonies, Greek Tragedies, Shakespearean plays and cinema. When the noise goes quiet and the lights dim, what remains at the core of fashion is art, passion, intellect and talent.
One need only look to visionaries and undeniable game changers to be confronted with the artistic merit of the widely rejected fashion industry – Sophia Coppola, esteemed Director, blends fashion with film to brilliant reviews. I a style icon at 95 years old, fuses courageous confidence with personal style, making an incredible impact using just her image. Bill Cunningham, recently passed street-style photographer, affirmed that fashion is about character, believing the street to be a runway and people walking art. Three well respected, intelligent, contributing members of society with one thing in common – a heart that beats for fashion.
It has been a long standing notion that the fashion industry is a fickle one. From experience and perhaps optimism, I strongly disagree. The fashion industry houses some of the most intelligent, compassionate, socially aware human beings I have encountered. The players in the fashion game, more often than not, support their competition, understanding the key to success in fashion is collaboration. When stripped back, fashion is a pure and artistic outlet to creative expression – the industry may not always dance in tune, but this is not unique to fashion itself. All industries comprise of good and bad. More so than ever, the big decision makers are pulling the industry further into the light through mentorships, the favoring of renewables, career support programs and social change. This begs the question, if the gloves came off, the sunglasses were removed, the decoration stripped away and the filter pushed aside, would the world see the reality behind the gloss – a powerful, artistic, deep and influential scene contributing beauty and art to society?
Header Image credit: Sara Heaven